By Bob Bresnahan,
Kit Carson board, Renewable Taos
Taos-based Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and Guzman Renewable Energy Partners will build 30 one-megawatt solar arrays around Kit Carson’s service area over the next six years.
Kit Carson CEO Luis Reyes and Guzman CEO Chris Riley say that on a sunny day all electricity provided by Kit Carson will come from the sun by the fall of 2022.
Reaching the 100% day-time milestone is an impressive goal, especially since Kit Carson and Guzman’s plan is to accomplish it exclusively with locally produced energy.
Guzman has been Kit Carson’s wholesale electricity provider since July 2016. When solar proposals began rolling in to Kit Carson headquarters for under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour last fall, Guzman signed on as partner in the solar project. Added to Kit Carson’s existing arrays, the locally generated solar share of Kit Carson’s annual electricity load will be around 25%.
Guzman will provide financing for the project and manage construction of the arrays. Kit Carson will execute power-purchase agreements for the electricity produced. Kit Carson will also help site the arrays and assist with permitting, interconnection to the Kit Carson grid and coordination with transmission companies and balancing authorities, as well as provide maintenance. Solar installers from the Kit Carson service area will participate in construction and future expansion.
A notable feature of the plan is battery storage sited at the arrays in the later stages of the project. While hitting the summer daytime peak demand from Kit Carson, there will be periods when the arrays produce more energy than required. Excess energy will be stored in batteries and dispatched after sunset.
There will be design, permitting, construction, maintenance, management and other jobs targeted for local people throughout the six-year duration of the plan.
The Kit Carson solar project does raise questions about other New Mexico utilities. The New Mexico Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for investor-owned utilities to provide 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
Electric cooperatives are excused from the 20% goal even though the the regions they serve have the most to gain from local production of energy.
It’s clear that the New Mexico Legislature needs to revise the Renewable Portfolio Standard with tougher requirements, support for rural cooperatives, and stricter compliance and enforcement measures.